...and there came forth a dark and ghostly company

Month: February 2024

Literary Hauntings

Literary Hauntings – A Gazetteer of Literary Ghost Stories from Britain and Ireland. Edited by R. B. Russell, Rosalie Parker and Mark Valentine, with additional contributions from Mike Ashley, Peter Bell, Gina Collia, R. A. Gilbert, John Howard, Marcelle Mapsby, Jim Rockhill, Brian J. Showers and Fran Weighall. Published by Tartarus Press.

First published 2022 as a limited edition hardback, this excellent book is now available in paperback. Put together by a highly knowledgeable team of experts, some of whom are Companions, it is the ideal volume for all literary pilgrims who love the great British ghost story.

In their introduction the editors reminisce about the 1970s, when many of us were young, and bookshops were full of paperbacks on UFOs, ancient astronauts, yetis and ‘giant vegetables on a remote Scottish island, etc’ (if they mean the Findhorn Community, it is not, in fact, on an island, but perhaps they are also thinking of The Wicker Man, a strange fusion indeed!). There were numerous guides to haunted places around Britain, often compiled by Peter Underwood (they say Peter Haining, but I associate him more with anthologies of rare supernatural fiction). Most of these books, with their cautious attempts to be open-minded and objective, are dismissed as dull and predictable. I suppose they are, but I must admit to preferring the Underwood and Andrew Green approach to that of so many true believers of today, for whom all ghosts are automatically disembodied spirits who need our help, and who will accept no other explanation.

But whatever we think of those now tatty old tomes, this book can never be described as dull or disappointing. It is a county by county guide to the sites of the truly memorable and sometimes terrifying apparitions that originated purely in the imaginations of such masters as M. R. James, E. F. Benson, Algernon Blackwood, H. R. Wakefield, Edith Nesbit, Oliver Onions, Hugh Walpole, May Sinclair and many others, some of them working today. There is no need to worry about explaining or interpreting these ghosts: just enjoy them, and marvel at the skill of the respective authors.

All the settings of our favourite stories are here, as well as many that will be new, and the descriptions are sometimes enough to get the imagination going and the fingers itching to pick up the books in which they appear. I certainly have a list of new books and authors to seek out, as well as older ones I have been after for years.

Reviewers of such books often advise readers to keep it in a rucksack or glove compartment of the car, emphasising its practical use. But this is a Tartarus Press publication, and like all of them, is a beautiful artefact in itself. It demands a space on a proper bookshelf, surrounded by others worthy of its company, to be taken down and studied with care. There are some minor lapses in proof-reading: Urishay Castle in Herefordshire is said to be in Hertfordshire, for
example, but these can be forgiven. Sit in your favourite armchair with the drink of your choice, invite the cat onto your lap, and lose yourself in this uncanny journey around the British Isles.

June 2024 Event

Wilkie in Whitby; a Bi-centenary Celebration

As part of AGC’s own twentieth anniversary celebrations, we will be joined by members of The Dracula Society (www.thedraculasociety.org.uk) and the Wilkie Collins Society (www.wilkiecollins.com) for a convention over the weekend of 8th-9th June 2024. We have booked the Whitby Museum for Saturday and will host a day of talks, performances etc. There will be a small charge on the door to cover the cost of the room hire. Dinner that evening will be at the Royal Hotel. It is planned that a guided walk (or walks) will take place on the morning of Sunday 9th and that A Ghostly Company’s AGM will be held that afternoon.

Wilkie Collins was born 8th January 1824 and is today best remembered for two of his novels The Woman in White and The Moonstone the latter of these being a favourite with M. R. James. Collins stayed at the Royal Hotel, Whitby in 1861.

Stories of his such as ‘A Terribly Strange Bed’ ‘The Dead Hand’ and ‘Blow Up With the Brig!’ have appeared in anthologies of horror stories. He also wrote a novel called The Haunted Hotel and other short stories with a supernatural theme include; ‘Mad Monkton’, ‘The Dream Woman’, ‘John Jago’s Ghost’, ‘Miss Jéromette and the Clergyman’, and ‘Mrs Zant and the Ghost’. The Complete Shorter Fiction edited by Julian Thompson was brought out by Robinson Publishing Ltd in 1995. Prophetic dreams sometimes feature in the works of Wilkie Collins, especially in his novel Armadale.

If you are interested in joining us for the weekend of 8th and 9th June 2024, please contact us.

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